There are generally 3 types of offences:
Summary Offences are the least serious and are hear in the Magistrates Court.
Minor Indictable Offence
Minor Indictable offences are also usually heard in the Magistrates Court where the matter is prosecuted by the police but an accused has a right to elect to have them heard by a judge and jury.
Major Indictable Offence
A Major Indictable Offence is generally where the penalty exceeds five years imprisonment and must be heard by a judge and jury. These offences will be prosecuted by the State Director of Public Prosecutions.
What is a Major Indictable Offence?
Major indictable matters are generally the more serious crimes and will ultimately be heard in the District or Supreme Court. The most serious offences of murder, attempted murder and treason are heard in the Supreme Court with others including rape, unlawful sexual intercourse for example are heard in the District Court.
Major indictable offences are described in Section 5 of the Summary Procedure Act and include the following serious offences:
* Serious criminal trespass
* Endangering life
* Criminal Neglect
* Production of illegal pornography
* Unlawful sexual intercourse
* Possess or access illegal pornography
* Causing death or serious harm by dangerous driving
* Bribery, corruption and abuse of public office
* Theft, money laundering and deception
* Possess firearm to commit offence and unlawful possess of firearms
What to expect if charged with a Major Indictable Offence
Committal proceedings are generally conducted by the filing of signed statements and not calling witnesses.
The role of the Magistrates Court in Committal Proceedings is to determine, based on the statements without hearing a defence and taking the prosecution evidence at its highest, if each element of the offence charged could be proven.
The Magistrate may dismiss the charge if there is insufficient evidence provided by the prosecution. If there is sufficient evidence you will be required to plead guilty or not guilty.
If the Magistrate determines there is a case to answer you will be required to plead guilty or not guilty and the matter will be committed to the District Court or the Supreme Court for trial or sentence depending on the plea.
The DPP fact sheet provides a clear flow chart and description of criminal court hearings that take place from the time the crime is reported through to sentencing.
Defence of your Major Indictable Charge
Major indictable charges are the most serious of criminal offence. If you are charged with an offence in this category, it is very important to seek legal advice from an experienced legal practice.
The law and the legal processes involved in mounting a defence for a major indictable offence are complex and technical.
Your lawyer needs to manage your defence from the first appearance and they will prepare you for the legal processes required. It will be important to have a lawyer you can trust to achieve the best result for you.